Priced Out: Affordable homes needed for disabled people

By Zena Taher/KSNW-TV

WICHITA, Kan. – Finding affordable housing can be challenging in Wichita. For people with disabilities, it is even more difficult.

2022 study from the Urban Institute and the advocacy group The Kelsey finds nearly 40 million Americans, ages 15 and older, have a disability. Of those, 18 million qualify for housing assistance but aren’t getting it.

One Wichita woman struggled for years to find a home that was both accessible and affordable. It came after an unexpected turn of events in her life.

Life-changing infection

Teresa Adams dreamed of a change of pace when she moved to Las Vegas in 2020.

Her best friend had decided to live out West, so Adams quit her job in Kansas and packed her bags, seeing an opportunity for a new life.

But everything changed when a bad pedicure led to an infection, she said.

“It turned into gangrene and traveled up my leg. It didn’t get really far, but it got far enough that I had to become an amputee.”

At first, only her toe was amputated. She moved back to Wichita to stay with family and friends and have their support while she recovered.

Adams spent months couch surfing, staying temporarily at other people’s homes.

“I didn’t feel homeless when I left because I knew I was going somewhere, but when you come back, and you don’t have a home, you do feel homeless,” she said.

Infection takes her leg and her options

Adams finally found an apartment she could afford, but the infection kept traveling up her leg.

“They amputated my leg, and that brought on some issues,” she said. “They did put a ramp up into the house, but I was paying almost $600 for an apartment that I couldn’t access.”

When Adams finally found an apartment advertised as “accessible” for $660 a month, it still didn’t meet her needs. Narrow doors kept her from being able to roll her wheelchair from room to room.

“People think that because they put bars into the bathroom, that that’s handicap accessible,” she said. “No. Handicap accessible means that you’re able to access every part of that apartment.”

“I couldn’t use the toilet. I couldn’t use the shower. I couldn’t get in the bedroom. I basically lived in my living room and in the kitchen.”

She ended up living that way for two years, depending on outside help to get her into other rooms of her home.

Adams says she has continued to see a lack of truly accessible housing in Wichita.

“The hardest part of finding housing is just the availability,” she said.

Truly accessible housing

Teresa Adams and others play dominoes at The Timbers. (KSN News Photo)

Adams’ life took a turn for the better when she got into The Timbers, a 100-unit accessible apartment complex with low-income housing.

Her mom filled out two applications to get Adams into The Timbers, but Adams refused to move in the first time because she didn’t want to be labeled as handicapped.

“Even though I was saying, ‘No,’ and fighting it, she was still saying, ‘Yes,’ and she got me in.”

Now, Adams pays $370 a month for rent.

She says she’s come a long way. Living in a supportive community has helped her to be more independent.

“I made friends out here, developed a little family.”

Adams wants to see more truly accessible housing in the city, not just places labeled as accessible.

She believes increasing housing for disabled people could help fix Wichita’s housing crisis.

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series looking at housing issues faced by people in Wichita. It is produced by members of the Wichita Journalism Collaborative, a partnership of 11 organizations, including KSN News.

This article was republished here with the permission of: KSNW-TV